In Democratic stronghold, Joy reaches out to Christian, Conservative voters 

Liz Joy, campaigning

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider
Liz Joy, vying to represent the 20th Congressional District, speaks at a church in Westerlo on Thursday. 

WESTERLO — Liz Joy began her campaign speech with a prayer, followed by a few references to scripture. Responses of “Amen!” came from the group of two dozen or so people at the Westerlo Baptist Church Thursday night.

“I’m going to be talking about Judeo-Christian values,” said Joy. “And in some ways it might sound like a sermon.”

Joy, who has launched a 2020 campaign to represent the 20th Congressional District, said that this was purposeful.

Should she win the Republican endorsement, Joy would likely run against Democrat Paul Tonko, who last year won a sixth term as congressman with two-thirds of the vote. The district includes Albany and Schenectady counties, and parts of Rensselaer, Montgomery and Saratoga counties.

She had been invited by the Westerlo Republican Committee to give a lecture titled “How to be Salt And Light: A Christian’s Guide to Voting.” It is the same title of a book she wrote, published in September 2016, urging Evangelical Christians to vote.

Lisa DeGroff, the Westerlo GOP chairwoman, noted that the church, although offering the space, was not endorsing Joy.

Joy, 51, currently lives in Schenectady County, but grew up in Glens Falls. She is president of the Schenectady County Republican Women’s Club and worked on Senator George Amedore’s campaign, she told The Enterprise before the event. Her husband, Robert Joy, is a private practice cardiovascular specialist at Ellis Hospital, and they have four adult children. Her youngest, Brooke, is in college, and was at the meeting, greeting entrants with her mother.

“Every vote in an election is a seed sown … sown in the land we’re given,” said Joy, from the lectern. She added that the elections would put either godly or ungodly people in power.

Although she touched on other issues in her speech, and earlier, speaking to The Enterprise, listed issues such as border security and the opioid epidemic that she will run on, a focal point of her speech was on abortion, something that also seemed to resonate the most with her audience.

“As a woman, I’m not standing here being ‘holier than thou,’” she said, adding that she would like to increase access to pregnancy centers and decrease the cost of adoption.

Joy said that the issue is what turned the 2016 Presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, citing a discussion of abortion during a debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

“I have met with women who, toward the end of their pregnancy get the worst news one could get, that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy,” Clinton had said, when asked about late-term abortions.

Trump responded with a graphic depiction of an abortion. “With what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby. Now, you can say that that’s OK, and Hillary can say that that’s OK, but that’s not OK with me,” he said.

“He said, ‘I am 100-percent pro-life,’” said Joy, reflecting on the debate. “And with that, Evangelicals turned out to vote.”

Joy also discussed the Reproductive Health Act that was passed in New York State last March, which she said was passed as legislators “clapped and cheered.”

In his State of the Union address this year, Trump said that New York’s legislators had “cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.”

The law codifies the 1973 United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortions in these two circumstances:

— The abortion occurs before the end of the 24th week of the pregnancy; this is at the point when medical science deems a fetus can survive on its own outside the womb; or

— The abortion is “necessary to protect the patient’s life or health.”

And New York’s act adds a third circumstance:

— There is an absence of “fetal viability,” or the ability for the fetus to survive outside the womb.

Joy compared such legislation to slavery or the Holocaust, actions which were legal at the time or carried out by a goverment, but were morally reprehensible, she explained.

“I’ve had people say ‘Well, jeez Liz, you need to tone it down on the whole life thing,’ and I said ‘No,’” she later said, followed by shouts of “Thank you!” and “Amen!” from the crowd.

Joy also addressed gender identity, describing her position on it, perhaps tongue in cheek, as “something even more controversial.”

“We’ve taken away God-given identity … ,” she said. “It’s not wrong to say, ‘God knew you before you were even born and he made you a boy … .’”

“I’m the extremist to say you’re valuable, you’re precious?” she went on to say, as a woman, sitting in a folding chair in the church’s recreation room, wiped away a tear.

 Neither Tonko or his campaign staff returned multiple calls or emails over several days to respond to Joy’s assertions.


The faithful applaud

As Joy finished speaking, George Langdon, a 76-year-old veteran from South Westerlo said, “You’re not done, you’re just getting started!”

Langdon attended the session with his wife, Lorretta Langdon, 82, who said they heard about the event because her husband is on the town’s Republican Committee, but she said the news also spread over social media and through flyers. The Langdons attend an Evangelical church, Horizon Christian Fellowship, in Cairo.

Four people traveled a distance to attend the event with Pastor Charles Wallace, of the Grace Fellowship Church, a non-denominational church with four different locations in the Capital Region; he said that three more had planned to attend. Wallace, 63, who said he is a born-again Christian, said he first learned of Joy on Facebook and, after learning more about her, decided he would be wherever she was speaking.

Wallace said he believed both Democrats and Republicans would conspire against Joy. Dave Goslyn, who knows Wallace but attends a church closer to his Westerlo home, interjected to say that both parties were like “two heads of the same snake.”

Goslyn, a member of the local “Bikers for Christ,” is 63 and the vice-chair of the Westerlo Republican Committee. He said that he agreed with everything Joy said, but especially “putting life first.”

John McGrath, 81, was one member of Wallace’s party, and drove an hour from his home in Clifton Park to hear Joy speak in Westerlo.

“I can see a force to be dealt with,” he said of Joy.

McGrath has heard Joy speak before, and said for him the issue of abortion resonated the most, in particular because his wife had once had an abortion.

“It’s always been underlying, churning, bothering, that I played a part in an abortion,” he said.

The best thing that he has been able to do about it, he said, is to share it with other Christians, including at Wallace’s church.

McGrath is a member of the Independence Party; he previously had been enrolled as a Republican, but left because “they don’t do anything,” and have done little to help President Trump, he said.


“Westerlo is waking up”

“I think it was excellent,” said Matthew Kryzak, a Republican who is running for town board, of Joy’s speech. Fellow Republican Amie Burnside, who is running for re-election to the board, agreed.

As Westerlo’s GOP chair, DeGroff has been coordinating efforts for Republicans to win local elections in a town where Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost 2 to 1. So far, two Republicans have been elected to the town board. In the November election, they hope to fill another council seat as well as the supervisor’s position.

“The direction our nation is going is directly influenced by the way the local towns and villages go … ,” DeGroff said. “We energize the local level; when you re-energize the local level, that’s going to energize the county level, the state level, and the federal level.”

Republicans won several seats in the Hilltowns the year following the 2016 election of Trump. In Westerlo, one Republican ousted a Democratic town board member, and two GOP candidates won in Rensselaerville. The victories were more prominent in Knox and Berne, with Berne Republicans losing the chance for a majority on the town board by one vote, and all seven Republican candidates winning in Knox.

At the state level, Westerlo is represented by Republicans in both the assembly and senate.

“Westerlo is waking up … ,” said DeGroff. “The sleeping giant is waking up.”

Joy told The Enterprise after her lecture that she believes the two major issues in Congress will be abortion — summed up by her as “life” — and “Constitutional freedoms versus socialism.” She spoke of her concerns of progressive movements such as universal basic income or losing private health insurers.

“I believe in freedom of choice,” she said.

When asked about the current Democratic majority in Congress, Joy said that, with upcoming elections, there was no telling what the majority would be.

“Oh, that gives me hope,” commented Burnside.

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